Boule – Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes
(makes 4 one-pound loaves)
3 cups lukewarm water (100°F)
1½ tablespoons granulated yeast
1½ tablespoons kosher salt
6½ cups unsifted, unbleached, all-purpose white flour
Cornmeal or parchment for pizza peel or upside down cookie sheet
Preparing the dough:
In a five-quart bowl or a resealable, lidded, plastic food container, add yeast and salt to lukewarm water. Don’t worry about getting it all to dissolve.
Add in all the flour at once. Mix with a wooden spoon (you can use very wet hands to help if needed) or a KitchenAid mixer with the dough hook. Don’t knead the dough; just mix until it is uniformly moist without dry patches.
Cover with a lid that fits well, but is not airtight. Allow to rise at room temperature until it begins to collapse, about 2 hours. (You can let it rise for up to 5 hours.) The dough is ready to use at this point, but will be easier to shape if it is refrigerated for at least 3 hours first.
On baking day:
Prepare a pizza peel or upside down cookie sheet by liberally sprinkling it with cornmeal or lining it with parchment paper.
Sprinkle the surface of your refrigerated dough with flour.
Pull up and cut off a 1 pound (grapefruit-sized) piece of dough, using a serrated knife.
Hold the mass of dough in your hands and add a little more flour as needed so it won’t stick to your hands. Gently stretch the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go. (Most of the dusting flour will fall off.) The bottom of the loaf may appear to be a collection of bunched ends, but it will flatten and adhere during resting and baking. Handle the dough as little as possible.
Place the shaped ball on the cornmeal-covered pizza peel. Allow the loaf to rest on the peel for about 40 minutes, uncovered if fresh, 1 hour if refrigerated. Depending on the age of the dough, you may not see much rise (more will occur during baking).
30 minutes prior to baking, preheat the oven to 450°, with a baking stone placed on the middle rack. Place an empty broiler tray for holding water on any other shelf that won’t interfere with the rising bread.
Dust the top of the loaf liberally with flour. Slash a 1/4-inch-deep cross, scallop, or tic-tac-toe pattern into the top using a serrated bread knife.
With a quick forward jerking motion of the wrist, slide the loaf off the pizza peel and onto the preheated baking stone. Quickly but carefully pour about 1 cup of hot water from the tap into the broiler tray and close the oven door to trap the steam.
Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the crust is nicely browned and firm to the touch. Allow to cool completely, preferably on a wire rack.
Store the remaining dough in the refrigerator in you lidded (not airtight) container. Cut off and shape more loaves as you need them anytime over the next 14 days. The flavor and texture will improve after even one day’s storage.
Credit: Jeff Hertzberg & Zoe Francois, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day